CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - A recently released 911 call reveals the chaotic moments after a massive fire broke out at a condominium complex in Carolina Beach last Friday.
The fire was first reported at the Paradise Cove Condominiums off Spencer Farlow Drive and near Snow’s Cut Bridge just before 1 p.m. Heavy flames and smoke were billowing from one of the 12-unit buildings as firefighters arrived at the scene.
New Hanover County Dispatch was flooded with 911 calls from people reporting the fire, with one particular call coming from a resident who lived at the condominium complex.
“619 Spencer Farlow Drive, the condos are on fire,” the caller stated as a fire alarm starts sounding in the background. “Oh God — it’s a big fire.”
He continued, “My place is burning down and I’m scared there’s people here, there’s people trying to get out the doors — I’m scared people are going to die.”
Fire officials say winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour played a major role in how fast the fire spread through the building, which was nearly destroyed. Two additional 12-unit buildings received minor damages.
When asked by a dispatcher where in the building the fire was at, the 911 caller responded, “The whole building, the whole building. People are jumping out of windows.”
At least four people were reportedly injured in the fire, with some people forced to jump from their second- and third-floor balconies to escape the flames.
“A lady is trying to jump out the window; let me help her,” he said. “Oh God, she just jumped out the window. She jumped out of the the second floor. This is bad, oh my God. Let me go help her.”
Callie Ryan was one of the victims who survived by going out the window. She jumped from the third floor.
“[My neighbors were] breaking into other people’s houses, their patios, trying to see if there was any patio furniture they could break my fall with, but there really wasn’t anything,” said Ryan. “By that point, fire had started coming into my house, so I just had to jump.”
Ryan and other neighbors say they didn’t hear any fire alarms going off when smoke poured into their apartments and torched their stairwells. These 911 calls prove at least one alarm went off
The investigation into the fire is being led by the Carolina Police Department, the Carolina Beach Fire Department, the State Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
In a statement released Wednesday, the Carolina Beach Fire Department confirmed that the annual inspection of the fire protection system at Paradise Cove condos was in compliance. This was in response to receiving multiple media requests asking whether the fire protection system was operating properly at the time.
“We know that they were inspected,” said Fire Chief Alan Griffin. “We know that they passed with no issues. We do know that for the smoke — or, correction, for the sprinkler system, the strobes, the horns and the fire extinguishers. All those were tested and up to date.
Officials are still unsure of what started the fire. Griffin says the investigation is moving smoothly so far and investigators have a good idea of where the fire may have started. He says the progress is largely due to the amount of photos and videos onlookers provided.
“We’re going through so many videos and pictures and it’s great because sometimes we don’t have that data,” said Griffin. “You know, even though some of it might be irrelevant, we still have to watch all the footage and look to make sure that our timeline that we’ve established and the known fire progression matches all the pictures and the videos and surveillance videos that we got.”
The fire department has turned the scene over to the property’s housing association. That will allow insurance investigators to do their work and help plan the future of the building and complex.
Chief Griffin says neighbors still need to be wary of the condition of the building right now. To keep people safe from the unstable structure, a fence now surrounds the scene.
“The fencing is to ensure nobody gets around it because it’s still unstable,” said Griffin. “We did try to render as much as we could stable, but as the investigation continues we want to keep it as much intact as we can. The fencing is for the safety of the public.”